Three-year contract will go into effect by July 1

The Cornelius City Council unanimously voted to contract with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to provide Cornelius Police Department services.

All councilors were in favor of the merge, but Dave Schamp recused his vote because he is an employee of Washington County.

“The department’s had some difficulties in the past few years and Chief Summers and I have done our best to try and fix them in the time we’ve had,” said City Manager Rob Drake. “But he and I have come to the conclusion that the department could use a reboot or reset.”

Drake, Summers, Sheriff Pat Garrett and Undersheriff Jeff Mori will work to perfect the three-year contract so it can go into effect by July 1, 2014.

After that, Summers will return into retirement. He faced the council apologetic, but excited for the merger. 

“I come to you with mixed emotions. I feel like I need to apologize that I could not fix all the issues I was brought in to address,” said Summers. “As time has gone on, I’ve realized that the Cornelius citizens are not getting what they deserve from their tax dollars as it relates to law enforcement. We are spending so much time with internal issues that we aren't able to focus on community caretaking.”

He continued by saying that he wouldn’t feel as good about his conclusion if there weren’t a “wonderful alternative” to present to the council.

“Cornelius citizens will be able to experience the level of services other cities experience,” said Summers. “There’s this wonderful opportunity by July 1 to receive the level of service they deserve.”

To address concerns from Mayor Jef Dalin and other citizens, Drake said that the contract could easily include a special section to ensure events such as National Night Out and Shop with a Cop as well as the continuation of the Community Oriented Policing Citizen Advisory Board.

Dalin also asked for a way to track call-response times and to have that information included in the final contract.

The decision was difficult for some. Councilor Steve Heinrich said he had reservations, but ultimately thought it was the best move.

“In my heart I want it to be 'our' police department,” said Dalin. But “to get off life support for a police department, it’s the right thing to do.”

After the decision, Schamp thanked Summers for his work.

“Your ethics stood out immediately and the way you were able to connect with the department and our citizens,” he said.

Summers and Garrett shook hands after the meeting was adjourned.

“It’s a transformational challenge,” said Garrett. “We are here to support you. we are excited to make this grow.”